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Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 24

March 1st, 2014 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

It is thought that Americans are not much on tradition. On the other hand there are many who think that the legislature operates mostly on tradition. It may seem that way because we have a certain way of doing things. This week however, there were several traditional things that occurred that have become annual events.

Each year on the Monday we celebrate Presidents’ Day, it has been customary for 4-H young people to come to town for what is known as the Know Your Government Conference. On the Monday morning of their stay, before they return home, the tradition is to have breakfast with government officials from all three branches. We had a large number of young people from our district attend the event this week.

Another tradition we observe, is to have a memorial service for former legislators that passed away during the last year. We honor these people for their achievements during their time in office and the impact they have had on their families and on the state. We honored ten former members of the House last week.

Another event that takes place each year in Boise is the girls and boys basketball tournaments. This last week a team of girls from Teton County stopped by and I was able to spend a few minutes with them in the governor’s office and have a mini tour of the capitol. We were able to spend a few moments on the House floor and they asked several questions about how we do business in the House.

This was the beginning week for another tradition that we see each year. The Lincoln Day celebrations got underway and it was good to be able to get home and attend a couple of them over the weekend. It’s always a pleasure to visit and talk about legislative matters and life in general.

It may not be a matter of tradition, but it seems that around this time of session the pace picks up quite a bit. Our daily agendas are full and we are spending more time debating legislation on the floor of the House. One item was a little Fish and Game bill that would discount leftover big game tags. It must be traditional to debate Fish and Game issues vigorously because we took much time on the bill.

As the movie Fiddler on the Roof begins there is a long discussion by the main character Tevia about tradition. He said that tradition defines who we are and what is expected of us. Around this place it isn’t much different with some things. We are required to operate under a set of rules for our actions to be valid. If that is tradition, it is a good one.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Rep. Tom Loertscher | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: America’s Beleaguered Middle Class

February 28th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The middle class in America is shrinking; numerically in terms of the percentage of the total population, as well as qualitatively in terms of the quality of life. Most of us consider ourselves to be members of the middle class, and we’re being squeezed by declining real income and rising expenses, as we increasingly shoulder the inflationary costs of corporate America, and the burdensome costs of government operations.

Consider the following middle class statistics as researched by Bill Moyers and PBS. Middle class is roughly defined as those households ranging in income from $25,500 to $76,500. At $51,017 the real median household income in 2012 is even less than it was at the end of the ’80s, and it’s down 9 percent from its high in 1999, with the biggest portion of that decline, 8.3%, in just the past five years.

The median net worth of a family in 2010 was $77,300, compared to $126,400 just three years earlier. In 46 of our 50 states, the poverty rates have increased over the past five years, and the national poverty rate is over 15% for the fourth year running. The last time that happened was in 1965. More and more families are dropping from the ranks of the middle class into poverty.

One of the greatest factors adversely affecting median household income is the loss of jobs and extended unemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the Participation Rate, which is represented as a ratio or a percentage of the total population, is at the lowest levels in 50 years, with about 62.8% of the population working. According to the BLS U-6 data, 13% of the population is still unemployed or underemployed, and marginally attached to the labor market.

On the cost of goods and services the picture isn’t much better. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the most relied on figure for calculating the year over year inflation rate. According to Forbes, the BLS has changed the way it calculates the CPI 20 times over the past 30 years, including new formulas and indices that have separated the volatile food and energy components and created a separate “Core” inflation rate. By some economist’s calculations, these changes have resulted in a significant dissociation between what the government reports as the inflation rate, and what we see in reality for the prices of goods and services that we buy.

Earlier this month Forbes declared, that “The CPI is not a measurement of rising prices, rather it tracks consumer spending patterns that change as prices change. The CPI doesn’t even touch the falling value of money. If it did the CPI would look much different.”

According to the BLS the CPI was up 1.6% last year, and has hovered between 1-4% over the past five years. But if the inflation rate were calculated now the same as it was in 1980, inflation over the past five years would’ve been between 5-12% per year. For example, average out-of-pocket healthcare costs have nearly doubled in just the last seven years, from $2,035 to $3,600.

Domestic energy prices have likewise increased dramatically. Over the past 10 years, energy prices have more than doubled as government energy policy has become increasingly ideological and counterintuitive. Increasing energy costs adversely affect the middle class disproportionately.

These data paint a distressing picture of the current status of the American middle class. And prospects for improvement are virtually nonexistent since the basis for the middle class demise is causally connected with the policies emanating from, and firmly entrenched, in the nation’s capital.

As best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their latest book, The Betrayal of the American Dream, “What is happening to America’s middle class is not inevitable. It’s the direct result of government policy, and it can be changed by government action.”

The solution to this malaise should be relatively simple, and recognized by everyone from the chairman of the Federal Reserve to the AFL-CIO. In fact, the labor organization perhaps worded it most succinctly in a piece titled, “How do we fix the U.S. economy?” They declared the first step must be “to put America back to work because high unemployment keeps wages down. Our goal should be ‘full employment, meaning everybody who wants to work should be able to find a decent job.”

What’s stifling job growth is the expansive overreach of government regulation. Last July, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey showed 74% of small businesses are positioning themselves to slash hours, lay off workers, or both because of increase regulation, primarily because of the Affordable Care Act. Investors Business Daily has a running list of nearly 300 large companies that are reducing hours for employees to get below the 32 hour threshold mandated by the Act. And that’s all from just one piece of legislation.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform published research two years ago that illuminates the role government has played in suppressing job growth. The committee reported, “Many regulations and legislation – both existing and proposed – exacerbate the uncertainty created by today’s volatile economic environment. Virtually every new regulation has an impact on recovery, competitiveness, and job creation.” The president’s own Economic Advisory Panel came to the same conclusion, and reported, “regulations are harming businesses and job creation.” This panel went on to suggest several measures that could be implemented in order to quell the expansion of such job-destroying regulation.

Periods of rising middle class income coincide directly to periods of economic expansion and growth. And not coincidently, those are also the periods when diminution of government regulatory control over the engines of the economy occurred, the most significant of which led to the declaration by then-president Bill Clinton, “The era of big government is over.”

The best way for people to increase their station in life is with a good job. Ronald Reagan once called jobs the “best welfare program.” And the best way for good jobs to be created is with a healthy economy that is vibrant, growing, adapting, and adjusting to global and domestic market vicissitudes. And the best way for that to be facilitated is to get government out of the way of trying to micromanage nearly every component of the economy. If the private sector didn’t have to work around overreaching regulation and interference, market efficiencies in the private sector could unleash the creation of jobs, market synergies, and economic growth.

The job situation will not improve appreciably until the cost of doing business starts dropping. Last year the Small Business Administration reported that regulation costs American business $1.75 trillion per year, and costs small businesses as much as $10,585 per employee. Just the costs of Obamacare, Financial Regulatory Reform, and new EPA regulations, are projected to increase that cost per employee as much as 30%, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

””In 2012, the President said, “This country doesn’t succeed when we only see the rich getting richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger. We grow our economy not from the top down, but from the middle out.” He was correct. But it’s time that our policies begin reflecting that stated priority.

The history of mankind is littered with fallen nations and governments that overreached by centralized planning, stagnated their economies, and collapsed under the massive weight of their inefficiencies. Hopefully Bartlett and Steele are correct, that the utter collapse of the middle class is not inevitable. But for it not to be, a reversal of our current trend is critical, and the sooner the better.
Succinctly stated, we have shrinking income, inflation in energy and food “skyrocketing,” as was predicted five years ago, a weaker dollar, a ballooning debt, and a national security-risking deficit. The costs of all these challenges are landing squarely on the back of the middle class. A strong middle class equals a strong America. We can’t have one without the other. And our current policies are killing both.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Presidential Politics, Property Rights, Taxes | No Comments »

Opportunity to Help Idaho Animal Rescues

February 27th, 2014 by Halli

Andi Elliot is bringing us a wonderful opportunity to support abused animal rescue organizations in Idaho. Please check out “Rescue Me…Help Idaho’s Unwanted Pets” and donate anything you can. The stories that are being revealed are truly heart-breaking.

We have a chance to make a difference!

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Politics in General | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: The Good of the Whole Sacrificed for a Few

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With the stroke of a pen and an utterance from the president, Obamacare’s employer mandate has been postponed yet again, this time until 2016 for some businesses. Headlines across the nation from the mainstream media have praised the delay, declaring it advantageous and good for the nation. If it’s “good for the nation,” why don’t we just delay it indefinitely?

The problem with 2,400 pages of legislation is not what politicians promise the legislation will do, but what it does in reality, including the creation of nearly 40,000 pages of regulations affecting our health care. And the reality with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as we’re witnessing nearly daily in financial media, is devastating for the economy, the middle class, and our healthcare system itself.

The ACA (Obamacare) was sold to us on the basis that there were 40 million Americans without health insurance and that the Act would rectify the apparent inequity. That actually is the first broken promise of Obamacare. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admits that after 10 years of implementation, Obamacare “will still leave 31 million uninsured.” And we’ll have spent $1.93 trillion failing to achieve the primary objective of the Act! And that new dollar figure from the CBO is still likely an underestimate since they’ve revised the figure upward three times already.

The new requirements imposed on employer sponsored insurance (ESI) plans will make the costs increase significantly for employers. Many employers will discontinue their plans altogether, forcing employees to the state exchanges to buy their insurance for themselves.

Last June, McKinsey & Company released results of a study that found, “Overall, 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering ESI in the years after 2014. Among employers with a high awareness of reform, this proportion increases to more than 50 percent, and upward of 60 percent will pursue some alternative to traditional ESI.” This contrasts sharply with CBO’s original estimates of 7% of employees losing their current ESI, and the president’s promise that none would.

Those who will be able to retain their current plan will see significant changes. According to the National Business Group on Health, 30% of all companies with ESIs are considering dropping coverage for retirees and over 50% are considering dropping spousal coverage. And it’s not just the private sector, as local governments are looking at the same solutions. The mayor of Chicago, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is planning to drop 30,000 city retirees off of the city’s ESI and push them into the exchanges to buy their own. He projects a savings of $108 million per year.

Promoting the passage of his signature legislation, President Obama vowed, “that my plan will reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 for average families.” But according to Investor’s Business Daily, since Obamacare passed, the cost of an average family policy has already increased by $3,000, because of the new regulations and mandates imposed on providers and insurers.

All the new regulatory requirements are causing health insurance premiums to soar even more, especially for younger and healthier individuals. After all, the government subsidies will pay for the added expense of covering preexisting conditions, which was forced by the ACA. Holtz-Eakins’ American Action Forum analyzed insurance premiums in five major cities, and calculated that Obamacare mandates will cause premiums to increase additionally an average of 169%.

Confirming the fears of many who actually read the bill, Howard Dean, a doctor and former DNC Chairman, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, “One major problem [with Obamacare] is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.” This obviously was what the president was referring to when he said “Give them a pill instead of the surgery.”

As of February 1, 3.3 million Americans have signed up. But how many of those are people like me who lost their insurance because of the new coverage mandates of the ACA? The White House estimated 41 million Americans would lose their coverage. And how many are losing their jobs because of the ACA? The Congressional Budget Office just updated their figure to over 2.5 million. How many are losing work hours and facing reduced income due to the Act? According to financial media, millions.

There are a few success stories that are shared anecdotally to make us “feel” better about the consequences — intended and unintended — of the ACA. But at what point do we say as a nation that the cost to the whole is too great for the benefit of the few? It’s time for government to start using cost-benefit analysis, for the ACA would dramatically fail all such tests. And when the damage is much greater than the benefits, it’s bad legislation, regardless of whose name is on it.

This brings us back to the original question. If delaying the full effect of the ACA is good for the nation, why not delay it indefinitely?

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: With a Pen He is Now a Dictator

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The Constitution of the United States was drafted and ratified as the foundational legal codex of the country in part because it would prevent tyranny in America. It had a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government that were designed to disallow any one branch, or any one person, from amassing so much power that they could run the country, and us, as a tyrant. We are witnessing firsthand the unraveling of those assurances.

Over the past several weeks the President of the United States has declared that he has “a pen and a phone” and intends to use them to implement his agenda. He has made it clear that he deems this necessary since he has an uncooperative congress that, unlike his first two years in office, refuses to subserviently rubber stamp everything he wants.

It’s clear from the context of his statements that his intent is to use the power of the presidency to sign Executive Orders and use his phone to force his agenda on the nation. By so doing, he is blatantly circumventing the very precautions embedded in our founding legal codex that were designed to prevent despotic rule in our country.

This perception is one shared by Jonathan Turley, a nationally recognized constitutional law expert, professor at the George Washington University Law School, and a self-avowed liberal.

Turley appeared before the House Judiciary Committee two months ago, where Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte asked the following question. “Professor Turley, the constitution, the system of separated powers is not simply about stopping one branch of government from usurping another. It’s about protecting the liberty of Americans from the dangers of concentrated government power. How does the president’s unilateral modification of acts of Congress affect both the balance of power between the political branches and the liberty interests of the American people?”

Professor Turley responded, “The danger is quite severe. The problem with what the president is doing is that he’s not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system. He’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid. That is the concentration of power in a single branch.”

At issue in the hearing was whether the president had the authority to unilaterally change the implementation dates of a lawfully passed Act of Congress, the Affordable Care Act. Turley’s response was an undiluted and unqualified, “No.”

This was not the first time the president has exercised unconstitutional powers of the presidency. Three years ago he declared his administration would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though congress failed to pass his proposed Cap and Trade bill, he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to actively enforce provisions of that bill that were never made law. He unilaterally proscribed expansion of offshore drilling without legislatively authorized power to do so. He has granted loans to other nations to drill for oil, without authorization from congress. He has, without congressional authority, implemented portions of the Dream Act, an illegal immigration bill, which never passed congress. He has ordered the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations giving the government control over the internet, and provide him with a “kill switch” to turn it off.

Just to clarify the role of the president, according to our own laws and Constitution. He is to “faithfully execute the laws.” He has no power to create laws or unilaterally change laws. That is the role of congress. Nor can he reverse legally passed laws. If he had those powers, we would no longer be a lawful nation committed to the rule of law, but would be an autocracy, ruled by the capricious and ideological whims of one man. This is precisely what Obama is doing according to Professor Turley.

We clearly have a president who doesn’t respect the Constitution enough to abide by it. He clearly has no respect for the rule of law since he feels it within his power to single-handedly create new code and force it on the nation.

Even the Executive Order (EO) has not the power to legally do what the president is doing. There are three things the EO can be used for: operational management of the executive branch, operational management of the federal agencies or officials, and implementing statutory or constitutional presidential responsibilities. Executive Orders cannot be used to either create new law, or to annul or reverse existing law. After all, his primary function, according to the Constitution and his oath of office, is to “faithfully execute the office” in enforcement and execution of the laws legally passed by the legislative branch.

We have a lawless president who is not doing what he’s required by law to do, and is exceeding his authority by assuming legislative power to create law. What more evidence do we need to impeach and remove from office, a president that is making himself an American dictator? And where is congress’ spine to reclaim their power that he has misappropriated from them?

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: Abortion – The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards has a thought about the perfect Valentine’s gift: buy your girlfriend an abortion.

After all, what could be more thoughtful? For only $300 – $500, a girl could have a lifetime of kind returns: It carries a lifetime of guilt and remorse, long after the boyfriend has moved along to greener pastures.

LifeNews reports on a web video Planned Parenthood has produced, with their president holding a heart. Inside the heart is an inscription: “What Women Need for Valentine’s Day: Safe + Legal Abortion”.

The organization is infamous for abusing holidays to spread their message of casual death for preborn children, so this is certainly nothing new. It is not even the most outrageous. (Their blasphemy during the Christmas Season cannot be measured).

Nevertheless, the contempt for women and girls on display is very disturbing. Even more troubling is their trivialization of the destruction of another innocent human being.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, Feb. 17

February 20th, 2014 by Halli

By Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

One of the best things ever invented was the extended cab pickup. It gives the ability to keep a few things inside and out of the weather. The backseat can be a little cramped but with some juggling around it is adequate to carry a passenger or two on occasion. This weekend Linda and I were getting ready to depart for home and one of our granddaughters decided to come along. After packing the items necessary for all three persons there was barely enough room for our granddaughter. Linda being concerned about whether Loria would have enough room asked, “Do you feel like a sandwich?” Loria answered, “No grandma, I already had lunch.”

One of the issues coming to the forefront last week, is that we should stop taxing food at the register. It is a rather intriguing idea because there are some savings that come to the state as a result of not having to deal with the grocery sales tax credit on income tax returns. It isn’t enough to make up the difference in revenue, but in a year when we still have a projected amount over our revenue estimates, it makes sense to at least give a full discussion to the idea.

Another item that came forward this past week has to do with the cigarette tax that has been designated for paying off the bonds for the renovation and expansion of the Capitol building. The last payment is about to be made and as you can imagine with the amount of money that is involved, everybody wants a piece of it. One of the proposals is to take about half of the money earmarked for the capitol and use it to retire the GARVEE bonds for roads. If that were to occur, it would at least free up some of our regular budget money for road maintenance. Another proposal lingering out there is to dedicate a portion of that money to aquifer recharge. Just let your imaginations wander and you can come up with an idea that has already been proposed for this “windfall” revenue. Here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we figure out a way to get that money back to the taxpayer?

It looks like the joint finance and Appropriations Committee will be setting budgets based on a 6.1% increase in revenue over last year. That might be a little bit optimistic for a spending plan and in fact exceeds what the governor proposed in his State of the State message. This percentage of increase may well be pretty close to what is expected, but if past history is any indication, it is not a good idea to spend absolutely every penny you anticipate in revenue.

We’re not always the best at making ourselves understood and around this place that seems to happen often. In the state affairs committee the other day we had a piece of legislation with the word “escheatment” in it. I won’t even begin to try to explain the variations on that word that came up before the meeting began. As the meeting started I cautioned everyone that there would be no bad language tolerated. The lesson is, be careful what you say and how you say it, someone might get a completely different meaning.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

Rep. Tom Loertscher: House Highlights, February 10

February 11th, 2014 by Halli

by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone

Probably the last thing that a legislator would have been thinking about at the beginning of this last week, took place as the week began. All things were on high alert as protesters attempted to blockade the entrance to the Senate. The security personnel in the capitol aided by the State Police stepped up to the plate and contained the situation. There have been protests staged in the capitol in the past, however not of this magnitude.

It was the week for the Farm Bureau to be in town, and in talking with them about their concerns, I’ll bet you can guess what their biggest concern is– – water. Of course that is not all we talked about because there are so many things that can happen during each legislative session that affect agriculture. It’s always good to see people from home and to talk with him about the issues. One piece of legislation that should be particularly of benefit to Idaho agriculture is to gain some flexibility with EPA regulations that are coming down from the feds. It will be a long process for Idaho to take control of these issues through our DEQ, but it is thought at least, that this will be of great help to agriculture in the long run.

This was also Association of Counties week at the capitol. There were commissioners from most of our counties and we had a chance to discuss local issues. Those discussions included personal property tax, repeal of the medically indigent law and the catastrophic fund, and interestingly enough our rural counties are very much concerned about the public defender commission that the governor talked about during the state of the state. The counties in District 32 are telling us that they are reluctant to participate in such program because it will cost our local taxpayers so much more than is currently being demanded. The model that seems to work for our rural counties is the one where they contract for public defender services.

Medicaid expansion suffered a blow this last week as the House Health and Welfare Committee declined to introduce (print) a measure to implement what the Department is calling Medicaid Redesign. There have been some small groups of legislators meeting to discuss healthcare issues in the state but they have not been successful in coming up with any type of a workable solution. I don’t think there is anyone here who disagrees with the idea that we have to get something done with this issue. It just doesn’t seem to be this year. I find it even more interesting that not very many in the legislature want to even talk about the Medicaid. It is also interesting that a bill has been introduced to reinstate adult dental services, which was one of the programs that was eliminated during the economic downturn. So I guess in our own way, piece by piece, Medicaid will be expanded anyway.

Prior to a big meeting that the State Affairs Committee was having mid week, that we knew would be well attended with possible security concerns, two Idaho State Police officers stopped by to visit before the meeting. I am very impressed with their professionalism and I know all members of the legislature will attest to that fact. They have our profound gratitude for their service.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Idaho Legislature, Politics in General, Property Rights, Rep. Tom Loertscher, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: The Mystery of God’s Blessings

February 8th, 2014 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

A recent scientific study demonstrates the mercy and grandeur of God’s design.

Apparently the cells from a preborn child are shared with the mother during pregnancy. Researchers found that two types of cells were transferred to the mom – immune cells and mesenchymal cells.

The latter are thought to be special cells that help in the regeneration and healing of adult tissue.

This seems to be a concrete example of God’s blessed promise:

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live ….” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

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Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Andi Elliott: Animal Cruelty Documented in Idaho

February 8th, 2014 by Halli

By Andi Elliott

Back in 2012 an undercover video of needless and wanton acts of animal cruelty was filmed at Idaho’s largest dairy conglomerate, Bettencourt Dairies, LLC headquartered in Wendell. Yesterday the Idaho Dairy Industry introduced an “Ag Gag” bill designed to keep people from filming acts of animal cruelty on farms. It even goes so far as to make it a crime by merely filling out an application for employment for the purposes of doing such.

I have viewed the video and it’s available on the web. I couldn’t finish watching. Cows confined to milking stalls being beaten and stomped on. Cows were beaten for slipping on wet concrete. Cows were beaten for no reason. One employee spent 102 days in jail; others fled, I’m told. Bettencourt Dairy owner says, “I love my animals and I’ve been in the dairy business since I was a kid. Animal care is a number one issue in our facilities.”

Really, then why support an Ag Gag Law? What do you have to hide? “Ag Gag” laws are designed to keep the public from knowing about the cruelty perpetuated on factory farm animals. I’m no animal rights activist but all creatures deserve to be treated humanely. Almost two weeks ago I contacted Bettencourt asking if some of those that were involved in the cruel treatment of the animals had been rehired as I have been told. As of this writing, I have not received a response.

I would urge you to call your reps and tell them to vote “no” on S1298. Bettencourt is a supplier of milk for Kraft which makes cheese for many of our nationwide fast food chains. Contact them and tell them that institutionalized animal cruelty is not okay in Idaho.

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Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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